***Winner of Poetry Society of America’s 2010 Shelley Memorial Award
Kenneth Irby has practiced his craft at the center of the American poetry scene for decades, yet is little known to the mainstream. An associate of the legendary Black Mountain poets as well as of the celebrated seventies L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E group of literary experimenters, he was a close colleague of writers such as Robert Duncan, Ed Dorn, and Robert Creeley. This comprehensive collection marks the first time the full range of Irby’s artistry has been presented in one place.
Irby’s early career, starting in the 1960s, paralleled the late Beat era and the counterculture, and his blend of innovative wordplay with personal and political themes made him an important voice of that era. At the same time, he was able to forge his own path, conjuring a style that was both universal and distinctly American. Critics and other poets especially have noted his avant-garde use of sound, silence, and unusual sentence structure to seduce readers. His surprising, incantatory style conjures the feel of jazz in a striking blend of heart and mind. As poet Robert Kelly has observed, “No one . . . has ever rooted down and plumbed the mystery of American places, land, name, history of our taking space, as Irby does. No one . . . has so clearly articulated the living fact, that America is an intelligent thing, and that . . . each human being has a root awareness of the inadequacy of this place, and that is vision.”